Chicago lake shore battered by high waves, park district closes lakefront path

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Chicago's lakefront trail was closed to the public Monday due to high waves, a more frequent problem as the city struggles to protect the lakefront from high waves this winter.

The Chicago Park District issued an alert Monday, closing the trail south of Fullerton Ave. Both the bike and pedestrian trails are closed from North Ave. to Ohio St.

The district said the pedestrian trail is also closed from 48th St. to 51st St. until further notice.

The battering waves are chiseling and churning up large chunks of cement along the lakefront path.

"If you're not on the lakefront, the idea of it going down over time is 'OK, it's fine,' but it becomes rather pressing if you're a property owner on the lake," said Gary lark, resident.

A soaking spring, in which the Chicago area exceeded 90 percent of annual percentage of annual precipitation in May alone, pushed the water in Lake Michigan to near-record levels, which are now increasing the lake's destructive power.

The problem the city is seeing now has been three to four years in the making, experts say.

Lake Michigan hasn't been this high since 1987, when water levels swallowed the surface of Lake Shore Drive.

Since then the Army Corps of Engineers and city departments have erected cement barriers, and stair-like break walls for protection along more than 9 miles of the city's shoreline. But those who live and bike the area have noticed a pattern.

"It was crumbling on the South Side, and when I get north it doesn't look that bad," said Edward Small, resident.

In 2014 the city started looking at ways to improve Jackson Park Harbor and protect it from waves. The stretch from 48th to 50th streets shut down last week after two late-fall storms.

With the help of federal funds, construction is underway to put it back together. It's expected to take about two months.

Engineers say when water freezes over along the lakefront this winter it could actually help beach erosion, as it the ice will prevent more of the shore from being washed back out into the lake. However, once the spring thaw comes that melting ice will contribute to rising lake levels.

For more information about the path closure, visit the Chicago Park District's website here: https://www.chicagoparkdistrict.com/.
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